One Week Job - USA

Maslow & Shakespeare: a mom's road to "actualization"

"One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs.  Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization."  Saul McLeod on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Through the years, I have been constantly reminded of Maslow's  paradigm--I was fascinated by the concept in high school and have thought of this "hierarchy" in its relevance to my life over the years.  Specifically, in recent years, it seems I have been in "survival" mode, tending devotedly to my little flock, yes, but tending with my head barely above water.  My daughter said to me yesterday, "Mom, I'm tired of barely making ends meet."  In our family, we don't focus on the scarcity, so it was a surprise to hear her voice this frustration.  And deservedly frustrated.

This one-week job project for me has everything to do with Maslow's highest step: self actualization.  I have been stuck and I'm seeking to un-stick myself not only for me but for my children.  Although as young adults they still want me to care for them (and give them immediate and full attention!), they are my strongest advocates for me embarking on a new journey because this has infused much-needed and hopeful energy into our family.

After the recent experiences of bankruptcy, foreclosure, death of their father, illness and unemployment (what else IS there?!--really, it sounds like a friggin' soap opera), it's time to ACTUALIZE some long-dormant potential here!  I harken back to my first blog where I stated my goal in doing this project was to become fully alive and to perhaps inspire others.

In thinking about writing these thoughts, I was remembering many conversations I've had with my dear friend, Kathy, about the joys and fulfilling devotion of motherhood.  We both, along with other mothers we know,  have poured ourselves wholeheartedly in this role not because we have to, but because we adore our children and find great fulfillment in caring for them.  Plus, we're aware of how short life is and we don't want to miss out on any experience with our children (e.g. theater and music performances!).  So we haven't.  And I just plain enjoy taking care of people. Period.  However, I also am aware that it's much easier for me to devote my time and energy on my children than to perhaps figure out how to reach a personal goal.  Okay, kids, I admit it: I've used you!   Wouldn't have changed a thing:)

Back to Maslow: even though I have been blessed with achieving (for me) the highest level of actualization and fulfillment by loving and nourishing my incredible kids,  I always felt a yearning (not just wanting to climb out of financial scarcity) to explore and commit to talents that I was given and know I possess (singing, writing, counseling/healing, speaking, dancing--OK, that one's for fun).  I suppose this is a common theme among parents: are those dreams I once had forever buried--or can I drum up the time and energy to dust them off and re-envision my life actually actualizing one of them?

So, I have a confession to make.  This project at times feels to me to be a very self-centered endeavor at the age of 59, soon to be 60.  Afterall, "who am I"  and "where do I go from here" questions seem to be more suited to 20-somethings.  Indeed, when Sean created his journey of working 52 jobs he was a recent college grad looking for his passion and purpose in life.  In theory, and in my distorted perception, I'm supposed to be past this, fully entrenched in my choices and thinking of retirement!

I have mentioned my concerns about the "me-focus" to friends--and even my reluctance to share these blogs not wishing to burden anyone's time and energy of my self-pursuits.  Thankfully, I have been gently thrashed by these friends who tell me that my experience has  offered new perspectives to their lives. Good people: keep tellin' me what I want to hear.

So, in this writing process, in making contacts securing jobs, in the work with Sean of obtaining sponsor-funding, in networking with friends and meeting new people in this journey, I am little-by-little re-designing my life so that the sense of life is not one of surviving but actualizing some goals to energize me and my kids.  I'm beginning to see that I can learn to devote time to this project and experience much as I've devoted time and energy to Laura and Alec.  Absolutely nothing will ever replace my love and care for them-they are my biggest dream.

I have Shakespeare's Sonnet 29 written in calligraphy, framed and sitting on our piano.  I'm sure many of you know the sonnet well, but it is so relevant to my thoughts here.  The writer bemoans his seeming "disgrace... with fortune..and fate" but in his darkest thoughts remembers that he actually is blessed beyond measure:

For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings, That then I scorn to change my fate with kings

I am looking forward to this year of new experiences,  and actualizing my potential--but I'm already "actualized."  I hit the jackpot here at home.


Job Hunting: All In the Family

“The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, 'How is the president?'”  -Will Rogers As I continue to network with my community and explore job possibilities, there are days when I feel the stress of not having a clear structure and plan for finding opportunites--and not knowing where to look.  I have discovered later in life that my highly distorted perception of being a visionary has been altered by understanding my great limitation in this area and my real need for much structure.  In short, I truly am that "worker bee" that would much rather have a list of things to do, check them off at the end of the day and be done with it.

So it's interesting that my son is also job hunting--- home for the summer from college.  "Interesting" covers a lot of ground and is one of my least favorite words often used in a ridiculous, general manner when people don't want to be specific about negativity or challenges.  That would be the case here!  Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but I find myself supremely inept at guiding Alec in this finding-a-job-thing, as I veer wildly from the diplomatic, blind leading the blind job-cheerleader to the stressed out mother who is short on sleep, energy, patience, ideas and finances.

Three years ago, it became necessary to downsize from our 5-bedroom home to a small 2-bedroom apartment.  This has been difficult but also comically impressive as we fit the three of us humans as well as a dog and two cats quite agreeably (the living room couch becomes my bed when Alec is home).  I have attempted to create a comfortable home with this situation, but it has pained me to have to ask my children to contribute financially.

My desire to be a good provider for Laura and Alec has given way to sadness and  guilt in needing them to share in this responsibility at a too-young age.  Nevertheless, these are the current practicalities of making ends meet every month.  Hence, the heightened "interest" in Alec finding gainful employment this summer so Laura can be somewhat relieved of her contribution during these months.

So a stirring debate with Alec regarding job hunting has centered around being willing to take any job (within reason) that is offered to him.  This is Alec's first foray into finding a job (to augment his continued summer part-time gig teaching kids theater and music).  The initial conversation went something like this:

ME:   So, where have you considered looking for work?

ALEC:  I'm interested in working at the Community Music Center.  

ME:   Great idea!  Maybe make a call and see who to contact.  Also, it's important to contact as many businesses as possible and network as much as possible to keep your options open.

ALEC:  I really  want to do something that will fit in with my interests and my career down the road.

ME:  (feeling rising impatience and irritation)  Honey (I know, terms of endearment can be seen as a power play here), finding a first, "real" job you really want, in this economy, at age 19, is unrealistic.  (I cleverly insert examples for him of his talented friends that have basic, low-paying summer jobs)  For instance, maybe applying at Ben and Jerry's would be a good idea because they are often hiring.

ALEC:  Ben and Jerry's??   I would never work there!

The conversation imploded there (especially after I found myself stooping for the "when I was a girl!" routine that I thought I would never hear myself say!) despite all attempts to be "helpful."

In fact, however, I am so grateful for Alec challenging me to think about this job-hunting business in a more expansive way, especially in regards to this one-week project.  Do I take any job offered to me to fill up my 52 weeks--and to try a bunch of different things?  Do I hold out for the opportunities that are more meaningful to me in my life?  Do I take positions only if I see a possible career in that field?  Do I stick with the experiences where I might make a greater contribution?

I currently work in my neighborhood coffee shop as a barista; in addition, I direct children's theater with my daughter at a community center.  And when asked, I take care of animals (one of my great loves) for a small fee.  In other words, in the past 5 years I have been willing to take whatever job has come my way to take care of my family.   Bootstraps, by George! It is with this mindset that I have approached my gifted son who possesses brilliant musical sensibilities and  gentle-life  sensitivities  with a rather one-way method of job hunting.  It's a numbers game!  Sheesh.

What I know to be true is that yes, I do have some wisdom to impart to my son and perhaps can guide him somewhat through this, but right along with him, I am learning about how to network and find opportunities.   Alec will discover his own process in applying for jobs this summer.  And I hope to improve upon my process with this project--and in helping my son-- in a more gentle, patient, creative and fruitful way.




Aging, ageism, cheese and gray hair

"Age is not something that matters much unless you are cheese."    (from Brain Rules by John Medina; sent to me by my friend, Ann Dockendorff) So, I wish that that was true.  I was walking Brady dog  yesterday and ran into Bill, the gregarious, handsome, warm, intelligent and beloved social hub of the hood.  He told me that he had worked for years in high tech, was much respected but unfortunately laid off four years ago.  Bill is 63.  He had applied for 74 positions in the past two years and there was always much excitement about his resume, interviews seemingly went well-----and then nothing.  Bill said to me: "Uncle!  I can't believe I'll have to default on the mortgage.  I've just reached the end of resources."

This is my story too (well, in upcoming posts, the 'rest of the story' will emerge...).  Laid off, applications sent out for positions I was highly qualified for, interviews had (which I consider my forte)---and then nothing.  I finally realized about a year ago that I was finished.  Finished with going about trying to obtain a job the traditional way; I was not going to subject myself to such a futile effort any longer, especially with the job market as it is.  I needed to get creative, think outside the box.....and then I met Sean.

Going Gray

Bill has a great head of hair: thick, wavy--and silver.  My hair is also silver.  It wasn't always this way:)

About two years ago, I was shopping in Fred Meyer and was told cheerily by the cashier that "golly you are lucky--, today is Tuesday, senior discount day, and you'll receive 10% off  your total purchase!"  WHAT??  You think I'm a friggin' SENIOR??  Well, crap.  The past few years have taken their toll (more later in the 'emerging story') but sheesh, I'm not ready for this!  Are we ever?  Clearly my dyed hair was not fooling anyone, and it was my children who encouraged me: "Mom, you should go gray."  I'm now loving my newish gray/silvery hair color.  The business world often does not.

Last week the Oregonian newspaper featured an article titled "Working Women Daring to Go Gray."  The good news: as one woman put it, "It's a bold statement to be gray...people take me more seriously now."  The bad news, as one man put it, laughing: "I don't think a woman in the workplace is going to follow that trend (going gray)...If I were an older working person, the last thing I would do is go gray."  SCOFF!  Really?  Really?  How dare he!  Song insert: "It's a Man's World."  And then I think of Bill; ageism is not just for women. 

I remember my mother saying she didn't recognize the gray, wrinkled woman looking back at her in the mirror--that inside she still felt like the youthful, vital woman she always was.  I understand now how she feels as I live with the everchanging visage in my mirror (which, by the way I comically thought of as just a stage I was going through).  Although now I rather comfortingly do not get stared at and husseled as I did even in my recent "attractive" years, I do often have the sense of feeling invisible now---somewhat diminished and less relevant.  I am beginning to see that this adventure I am on is really a quest not so much to find a "job" but also to recapture that vitality, and to share my  experience and transformation with others.

And, by the way, Bill was offered a great job this week through friends who truly know his worth.






November 2011: First Planning Session with Sean

Around the first of November 2011, Sean and I had out first planning session by phone.  I tend to run with a  sense of urgency, and I realized Sean approaches things in a much more relaxed manner--a great compliment to my energy!
 Ever since meeting Sean on the plane, I had many questions and a chief concern:  could I really leave my home and those who count on me for a year?  My daughter, Laura, and I share living quarters and sweet life together currently on a daily basis as she attends Portland State University majoring in International Development in Africa with a focus on Sustainability.  My son, Alec, attends Willamette University as a Music major with an emphasis in Education less than an hour away in Salem and whose choral concerts bring me much needed joy on a regular basis.
And then there are the animals--treasured members of the family.  Brady, our three-legged border collie mix  is desperately and neurotically bonded with me, and he moans his fate if I leave him for just an hour (much less possible long stretches of time when I am away for this project).  Jenny cat is our sickly alpha Madame of the household who commands the utmost respect, but is approaching her golden years with a serious thyroid illness for which she must have 5 pills daily in order to survive.  And lastly, there is Oliver cat, so named because he adopted us as an orphan--a cat not only so studly and street-wise that we continually marvel at his skills, but also a cat who so obviously is grateful for his warm and loving life that he is our chief role model.
So it is with this precious little family in mind that I rather anxiously approached my first discussion with Sean.  He immediately put me at ease with his "chill" manner and easy laugh.  The very comfortable connection I felt on the plane was at once there, and it was like talking with a friend I had known for years.
 Sean and I discussed the formation of the project and the planning assignments; he would focus on finding a sponsor to support the project and me for a year, and I would begin brainstorming possible jobs and networking in my community.  I shared with Sean concerns about my treasured little family and my hesitancy to leave them for extended periods of time.  I was really angling the conversation to see if Sean felt we could be flexible with the constraints of the project and perhaps do some things differently than he had done.
 We discussed the possibility of tweaking the location of the jobs: perhaps I would stay in the Portland area for the first several months and then travel to other states after that.  We began to realize and agree that the yearly itinerary might look a bit different for me, a middle aged woman with a family, than it did for Sean and Paul, young single men who were relatively unencumbered.  I began to breathe more easily as I saw that Sean and I could create an adventure that not only worked for me, but also maintained the integrity of Sean's original vision.
Still, one thought was really nagging at me:  how could I best inspire others through my adventure?  So many people are out of work and struggling just to make ends meet.  My adventure sounded a bit like an interesting gimmick that may prove life-changing and fruitful for me, but unrealistic for others to attempt.  Sean had great advice:  Don't worry about inspiring anyone.    My job was simply to share my experience and tell my story, and in so doing, perhaps inspire others or open up a new dialogue in their lives.  I hope I can do that.

- Linda

A potentially life-changing serendipitous meeting...

In October of 2011, I attended a mini high-school reunion (the 41st!) in my hometown of Santa Barbara, California.  Although I've lived in Oregon now for many years, there is a big part of me that still considers myself a Californian.  The chief reason for that: the beach.  The place I love most on the planet (thus far!) is a beach we used to call Henry's Beach in Santa Barbara.  When I am walking on this particular sandy retreat, I experience such bliss as I hunt for shells, listen to the waves, watch the birds as they forage, smell that unique sea breeze completely present with the joy of experiencing this familiar place.

It is with this contentment that I boarded the plane in Los Angeles to take me home to Oregon.  (OK: Oregon has a beautiful ocean too but for a Californian, there is a big difference between the "coast" and the "beach!").  As I sat in my aisle seat, I noticed that the plane was filling up quickly, but the window seat next to me continued to remain vacant.  Just as I was beginning to think Yes!...I'll have some space around walked an good looking young man with beautiful blonde dreadlocks, and he gestured that the vacant seat was his.  We said a brief, cordial hello to each other then turned to our own amusements for the first part of our journey.

After awhile, we struck up a conversation sharing a bit about where we were flying from and to (he was flying home to Vancouver, B.C. after spending time at the Burning Man festival in Nevada).  He told me his name was Sean Aiken, and then proceeded to tell me about the project he has created: The One Week Job Project.  And that he had just had a book published and a documentary released about this project---and that he has been an invited guest on many national and international radio and TV shows discussing his project.

As I listened to him talk about his story, I was incredibly impressed with his intelligence, maturity, clarity of vision and his ability to connect so fully in our conversation. A rare human being, indeed. As we talked more and I recounted my own checkered career path over the years a germ of an idea began to take hold.  I talked about my masters degree in speech communication which I had made use of over the years in the nonprofit world and in sales.  I also had worked many short-term jobs over the years simply to pay the bills, but no job had ever been my "passion."

I shared with Sean that my passion has always been caring for and loving my two children--and singing--that I was born with a vocal gift and had sung for decades but not recently, and not for years except sporadically.  I found myself telling Sean that I felt such a great loss in not having made the decision to really pursue my music and design my life to include my singing.  I found myself reflecting on Sean's experience with trying to find his passion by trying all sorts of jobs, and I disclosed to him that I had been under-employed or unemployed for the past 3 years and was actively looking for a new career to take me through the next chapter in my life.

That's when I got the idea: I, an almost-60-year-old woman could take the challenge of Sean's 52 jobs/one job per week/for one year and by so doing redesign and redefine my life, perhaps find a passion, hopefully find a career, re-energize myself in the process and perhaps help others to re-energize their lives.  As I was telling this idea to Sean, his eyes lit up and he said "I absolutely know that we were supposed to meet and this is what you're supposed to do!"

Sean was especially touched by hearing about my incredibly youthful 85 year old mother who has the energy of a 30 year old and who always wanted to find her passion and actively pursue something she loved, but her life was limited by the constraints of society's rigid roles of what was expected of a woman.

With that thought, we both remarked on how short life was and that this was an opportunity for me to design an adventure based on the integrity of Sean's 52-job journey.

Welcome to the "Never Too Late: the Redesigning and Redefining of a Woman's Life, Passion and Career" experience!

I hope you join me for the journey!


BIG NEWS - One Week Job: USA starts Summer 2012

I'm super excited to officially announce the launch of One Week Job: USA beginning in Summer 2012 with 59-year-old Linda Chase from Portland, Oregon. We're looking for a sponsor. For details, contact

I met Linda when we were seated beside each other on a plane in September 2011. We immediately had a great connection and quickly got into deep conversation. Linda told me that as she approaches the age of 60, she's beginning to feel somewhat diminished, less confident and less relevant, despite having amassed many valuable life and professional skills.

After raising my two children, working a variety of jobs, being unemployed and underemployed (despite being highly educated), seeing long-held dreams slip away, and losing my life partner to brain cancer, I began wondering, 'Now who am I? And where do I go from here?'

The One-Week Job Project is an idea that resonates, regardless of age. It strikes a chord that is intimately human – at some point in our lives we all must look deep inside ourselves to answer the question, “What should I do with my life?”

And yet it’s not just a question faced by recent college grads. Linda’s story is one that is shared by millions – empty nest parents who sidetracked their career to raise a family, those starting over after a divorce, or recently laid off, or retired – it’s a question we’ll continue to face at different points throughout our lives.

Today, many baby boomers are very active and want to get involved to make a difference. At the same time they may also be experiencing the difficulty of reconciling past dreams that are no longer possible, finding the strength to create new dreams, and to summon the courage to pursue them.

It’s an important conversation and a transition that currently many feel they must face alone. Linda’s courage to be vulnerable and to share her journey is sure to bring inspiration to all those who find themselves a little bit older with well earned life experience, and who refuse to believe that the best part of their life is behind them. As Linda says, "It's never too late!"

One Week Job: USA is set to launch in Summer 2012. Leading up to Week #1, Linda will be blogging at about her reflections, inspirations, musings, etc. as she prepares for the start of her adventure.

- Sean

Join the journey!